I’ve been inspired recently by seeing Spirit filled believers living out their faith in love and in action, being as Jesus would have us be on earth, using their gifts and talents for His Glory and to love and serve other people. I’m most touched by the love and gentleness imbued in these actions and sharing of gifts and talents, whether these be people helping others in need or using their musical gifts to lead in worship.
Sometimes if I’m to be honest I can look to others and see their lives as fruitful and flourishing and pleasing to God, and perhaps not see myself in that way, even as I seek to live out my faith, but I am reminded that it Is God Who works in us to will and to do His good pleasure.
In Galatians 5: 22-23 we are told that the ‘fruit of the Spirit’ (that is the Holy Spirit indwelling believers) is love, joy, peace, longsuffering (patience), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. These are the beautiful qualities of Jesus Christ Himself, and in contrast to our fallen natures. That is not to say that people who don’t know Christ can’t be kind or loving, etc, as bearing the hallmarks of their Creator, but that the Spirit of Christ is the fullness of Love, joy, peace, etc. Spirit filled believers / followers of Christ also struggle against our fallen natures as God gradually changes our hearts from within to be more like Jesus.
I was reading this evening in James that ‘faith without works is dead’, and a few thoughts are coming together with regards to this. One is that God has created us uniquely and each person has different gifts and talents to use for His Glory, and God’s Spirit brings about unity and harmony among His people (when we are living lives surrendered to Him) as we live for Him rather than a sense of unhealthy comparison. So I can take heart that God Is using my life even if in different ways to others, and that I can look to the Giver of good gifts rather than the gifts themselves that I might admire in others. In 1 Corinthians, Christians are described as being the ‘Body of Christ’ – we all belong to the Head (Jesus Christ) and are members individually (just like the hand, foot, eye, etc are individual members with different roles and functions of a human body) but we are all part of the same body.
I’m not a teacher of Scripture, so just take these thoughts as musings and encouragements rather than any form of teaching.
As I think about the ‘works’ that come from living out a faith in Jesus Christ I’m reminded that the Gospel (the good news) is different from any other religion where one may have to work their way into God’s favour. The Bible is clear that no one can possibly be made right with God through what they do, but through faith in Jesus Christ’s atoning sacrificial work on the Cross to bring us into right relationship with God the Father with the indwelling Holy Spirit as a ‘seal’ of our redemption, confirming that we are children of God. The things we then do are an outworking of that restored relationship with God, but not something that can earn salvation which is a free gift at Christ’s expense.
Knowing Jesus personally, knowing the tender presence of His Spirit and the reality of His Love changes these things from mere words to life. He Is very real, and those who are His seek to live for Him.
Yet, as I have perhaps digressed, how do we live it out? I think abiding in Christ, staying closely connected with Him and letting Him change us from within is an important step, listening to His Voice and leading in our lives personally, and then looking to what we have to give to others and how we can serve them. Another important step is to stay connected not only to the Head (Jesus) but to His Body of believers as well as we serve together in churches / fellowships. I’m encouraged that God Is the God of encouragement and that He notices little things, and little people too. It may not seem like we have a lot to offer, but love will work its way out in the opportunities we have each day. Some people’s sacrificial lives and love will be very powerfully lived out, but perhaps there are ways we can live for Him as believers each day as He leads – could it be in allowing His love to flow through us to encourage someone else, to show kindness, to practically share what we have, to help someone who is suffering, to give financially or with the goods we have? Could it be in investing time in the gifts we have such as in music, or writing or teaching, or even writing a blog post? Could it be in using the powerful weapon of faith fuelled prayer? What do you have at hand today? How can we encourage each other to live lives of love in the power of the Spirit? Could it be in being more careful in the words we speak, in looking to the practical needs of others, those who are marginalised or suffering, spending time with someone or phoning someone who is struggling or needs encouragement, preparing gifts for those who are homeless or don’t have as much as we do? Maybe the first step will be a small step, but it is somewhere to start.
What are your thoughts on living out your faith, and what encouragement might you have for others?